Best of the Drop — Emergency Preparedness

This “best of” edition of the Weekly Drop is a collection of reader questions that focus on emergency preparedness. Because when it comes to surviving disasters, preparation is key.

Read on below to discover my top three elements of preparedness (if you need a place to start), the best way to store emergency water (and be able to take it with you if you need to evacuate), my No. 1 recommendation for survival batteries (I put these in all my devices) and more.

If you have any questions about prepping, be sure to send them to

Hey Jason, I’m new to this whole “prepper” thing and I’m really overwhelmed with everything I need to do. Where’s the best place to start? Can you give me the three most important things I should do first? Right now I have nothing…

— John M. 

The first three elements of preparedness I recommend working on are water, food and security.

Humans can survive only about three days without water, which is why it’s No. 1 on my list. Store emergency water in your home, and look into getting a quality survival water filter as a backup.

The next thing I would concentrate on is building up your food storage. This is something you should start ASAP but can work on over time. Every time you make a trip to the grocery store, spend an extra $5 (or whatever is in your budget) and buy a few nonperishable goods to add to your emergency food stores.

Lastly, I suggest making sure you have security measures in place. This might mean purchasing a gun, building a safe room or installing a home security system (or all of the above). Something is better than nothing — so even if you start small, it’s better than not starting at all.

What do you recommend for long-term storage of water? Could you write a short blurb about what containers work best and where they can be obtained? 

— Morgan D. 

I recommend using WaterBricks, which are durable, high-density polyethylene containers that can hold up to 3.5 gallons.

WaterBricks are stackable for convenient storage. In addition, each container has a handle for easy transport — so if you have to evacuate in an emergency, simply grab a few WaterBricks, throw them in the car and take them with you.

Not only can you take these containers practically anywhere, but you can use them to store other items that you want to preserve like food or ammunition.

To get your own WaterBricks water storage system for emergencies, click here.

What about batteries? Is there a specific type or brand of battery you recommend? What sizes should I stock up on?

— Chuck B. 

I use Panasonic eneloop rechargeable batteries. These batteries come pre-charged from the factory so you can immediately put them to use, which is an added bonus. Also, they can be recharged up to 2,100 times, which is huge money saver since you won’t be constantly buying new batteries for your electronics.

Another good thing about these batteries is that they maintain their charge when not in use (really). Personally, I have never left these batteries charged for years on end, but according to the company, they can maintain up to 70% of their charge after five years.

As for which size to stock up on, it just depends on what your survival gear uses. If you have a battery-operated survival radio or lantern, stock up on the size these gadgets require.

Batteries are also a great tradeable item. Consider stocking up on a few sizes you may not need to use for barter.

I get a LOT of emails from preppers offering a year’s amount of survival food and other “free with order” extras. The issue is I, like many, make low wage and even those “normally 5k, but I’m offering all this at only $1,999.00” deals just aren’t doable at all. What should low-wage earners do to ensure they can afford to make their own 25-year shelf life food storage? I mean, we are human also and deserve the chance to survive. What is your advice?

— Sarra R. 

Storing enough food for 30 days may sound daunting, but it’s not a difficult task at all — and it doesn’t have to be expensive.

The truth is you don’t necessarily have to buy your survival food storage all at once. You can slowly build up your long-term food storage for as little as $5 a week. Here is a link to a plan I have used that shows you how to build up a year’s supply of food without spending a ton of money.

You can store canned items as they are (although that could take up more space than you’d like). I recommend storing large quantities of dry goods (wheat, rice, sugar, etc.) in food-grade buckets. I use Uline brand buckets, but you can also just get painters buckets from your local hardware store. If you go that route, you must store your food in Mylar bags. </

Thank you for all the great information on acquiring food storage for a year. Can you explain what we should buy to cook the food since our electric and gas will likely be out in an emergency?

— Lou G. 

Survival stoves come in a large variety of sizes and styles, making it easy to find one to suit your family’s needs. Here are a few things to consider before purchasing a survival stove:

  • Do you plan to cook indoors or outdoors?
  • Do you want a stove that is portable?
  • What kind of fuel is required and how easy is it to obtain and store?

If you’re forced to evacuate your home on short notice, portable stoves are great because they are typically lightweight and easy to carry. One portable stove I recommend is the Coleman Single-Burner Propane Stove. This stove is easy to use, clean and store. But there are other several reliable brands to choose from — I also suggest checking out stoves made by Camp Chef.

When it comes to fuel, I prefer propane because you can store propane tanks indefinitely. Whatever you decide, you’ll need to store enough fuel for at least a month.

I have two questions related to communication during a national emergency when cell service is unavailable:

  1. All family members know where to meet up in case of a national emergency, but there is always the possibility that this might need to change. What would be the best method of communication with family members in the short term? 
  1. What would be the best long-term method to receive status information from the government and/or citizen emergency communications?

— Matt M.

During an emergency, one of the best ways to communicate is with a two-way radio such as the Baofeng UV-5R. I have the second-generation model (V2+), but they do have a new third-generation model (the Baofeng BF-F8HP) that is worth checking out — although it is a bit more expensive.

Each family member would need to have one of these radios and everyone would have to be on the same channel. This is something you should establish ahead of time as part of your emergency plan.

If carrying two-way radios isn’t an option, I recommend leaving a note or setting up some sort of signal to let family members know that everyone should meet at a backup location.

For example, let’s say your plan is to meet at a local school near the flagpole. You might tell your family that if they go there and see a T-shirt tied to the pole, they should move on to a previously selected secondary location. You could go even further and dictate that a blue T-shirt signifies they should go to one meeting spot while a red T-shirt means they should go to another.

To receive the latest information, I also recommend the UV-5R radio. You can program these radios to pick up local emergency channels so you can stay up to date on what is going on in your area.

Keep in mind, having a longer antenna will give your radio a wider operating range. This one is highly rated — and at 15.6 inches, it’s much longer than the one that comes with the radio.

Perhaps my greatest concern is the out-of-control debt and spending. The PIPER will be paid! What are your suggestions on this coming disaster?

— Ken H.

You’re absolutely right, Ken, the disaster will come. We just don’t know if it will be tomorrow or 10 years from now.

When it comes to financial preparedness, I recommend investing in gold and silver coins, as they may be the only things of value after a collapse. Next, I would establish an emergency fund with enough cash to cover six months’ worth of living expenses. Even if the dollar loses value in the aftermath of an economic crisis, you still may be able to use cash to buy necessities — at least in the short term.

Of course, this is another reason I recommend building up six months’ to a year’s worth of food storage and emergency supplies. This will allow you to ride out almost any disaster.

Stay safe,

Jason Hanson

Jason Hanson

Chris Campbell

Written By Jason Hanson

Jason Hanson is a former CIA officer and security specialist. He’s appeared on numerous television shows, including ABC’s Shark Tank and NBC’s Today show. To get free survival tips from Jason, click here.